Gabriel Rutledge is a stand-up comic from my town who is set to make his first nationwide television appearance. Rutledge taped an episode of Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham this summer and will air nationwide this week on Nov 13.
After abandoning a mediocre career in pizza delivery back in 2000, Gabriel started hitting the stage. He took home the top prize in the Seattle International Comedy Competition in 2004 and all while tending to his family as a father and husband.
How did you prepare for your Gotham appearance?
I found out I was doing it, about a month before the taping. So I opened every show for a month with the set I was going to do on Live at Gotham just so I would have it down. It’s kind of a blur though. I got booked from a tape I sent in. Which I didn’t even think happened. So I really felt like I got hit by lightning in a good way. I just walked around for a month going, “Really?”
What was the experience like?
It was probably the best experience I’ve had in comedy so far. Winning the Seattle Contest in 2004 was probably more important to me, just because it came at a time when I really needed it, but Live at Gotham was awesome. I was in New York, staying at a super nice hotel, taping a show for Comedy Central. Comics tend to try and act cool and unimpressed, but sometimes you have to step back and admit, “This is pretty awesome.” And it’s a long way from when I went to my first open mic at the Comedy Underground 9 years ago. A lot of the comics were talking about how this was their “first” TV credit. That’s true, but it might be our last too, so we might as well enjoy it.
The show itself went well. I had a good set, and got to hang out for next day or two. Everything seemed so possible in New York too. I was hanging out in the green room, drinking $8 beers with Comedy Central executives and industry types. Then 3 days later my next show was in Albion, Idaho where I actually performed in a yert. So I came back from fantasy camp pretty fast. Although in Idaho the beers were $2, so each place had it’s good points.
Did you grow up in the Lacey/Olympia area?
My family moved to Olympia when I was 11, from South Bend Washington. South Bend is a little logger/oyster factory town of 3,ooo or so, so Olympia was like the big city. Went to Jefferson Middle School. Went to Capital High School. Went to half a year of South Puget Sound Community College and then dropped out because I was pretty sure my band was gonna be huge.
What advice do you have for anyone in the area wanting to pursue a career in stand-up comedy?
Your going to have to drive a lot. You can create your own stage time, by setting up your own shows nearby, but really it takes a ton of stage time to get good. When I first started I was doing 2 or 3 open mics a week in Seattle. But I would also say there is no right way to do it. I would never tell anyone “You should move to Olympia, Washington. Because I live there and I’m a nationally touring headliner and I was just on Comedy Central.” That would be terrible advice, but it did work for me.
There doesn’t seem to be many options for stage time as far as comedy clubs go. Do you find it difficult getting booked closed to home?
To me when I get booked in Seattle, Tacoma, or Everett, that is close to home. I maybe do one of two shows a year in the city I live in. But when I just flew back from Indiana, an hour drive to do a gig, does seem close to home.
Its clear from your blog ‘Standup Dad’ that you have a family waiting for you at home while on the road. How do you balance being on the road with being dad/husband?
That’s the biggest challenge to this job. Well, other then the poverty. To be honest, my kids are totally fine with me being gone on the road, to them it’s normal. But it’s really hard for me to be away from them, and it’s really hard for my wife to be the only parent while I’m gone. I do spend a lot of time with them, because when I’m home, I’m not going to a job all day. So probably if I did the math I spend as much, if not more time with my kids then a “normal” dad does. But it doesn’t feel that way when I’m in some hotel room 2 time zones away.
I would love to say I’ve found some perfect balance, but I haven’t. Balancing being a comedian with being a dad is always going to be a struggle for me. I hope Live at Gotham is the first of many TV shows I get to do in my career. I dream of being on Letterman or having an HBO Special like any other comic, but really above all else in life, I’m trying to make sure my kids are decent human beings.